09/16/2003 11:00PM

Balancing act: Price vs. ability

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NEW YORK - We have already had two chances to express our opinions about the Classic, Distaff, Sprint, and Turf. Now, we have one last chance to get it right on the remaining four Breeders' Cup races.

The final round of the Breeders' Cup Future Bet, which comprises the Juvenile, Juvenile Fillies, Filly and Mare Turf, and Mile, begins Friday at 1 p.m. Eastern and runs through 9 p.m. Eastern on Sunday.

By now, there should be no need to recap basic parimutuel future wagering strategy. If you don't know that it is essential to wait until late on Sunday to bet, so as to gain a sense of what the closing odds will be and to keep up to date on racing developments, then you have probably been marooned on a distant island.

Following is a discussion of betting strategies in an effort to identify attractive contenders and assess acceptable odds in each of the four races.

Juvenile

Cuvee is so far the fastest and arguably the most accomplished 2-year-old in the country, and close behind him in terms of stakes wins and Beyer Speed Figures is Chapel Royal. But, despite Cuvee's runaway victory in the Futurity going a mile at Belmont, neither he nor Chapel Royal look as though they will be as effective going two turns, which they will have to do in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, as they have been around one turn. Cuvee is, after all, a son of Carson City, and Chapel Royal is by Montbrook, and the deal breaker is that both will be well backed in this pool. Add in the impression that the California 2-year-old males have been below average, and the conclusion is this is a race to go shopping for a price.

There are four here that from the standpoint of potential and possible odds intrigue me. They are Eurosilver, Read the Footnotes, Sir Oscar, and Value Plus. Eurosilver embodies an interesting mix of pedigree, connections and performance. He's by the hot Unbridled's Song, from a stakes winner who is a daughter of Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Brave Raj. He's trained by Nick Zito, who knows what to do with a good colt. And, after finishing second to subsequent Hopeful winner Silver Wagon in his career debut, Eurosilver romped second time out, earning a flashy 96 Beyer.

Read the Footnotes won his first two starts comfortably, but there may be a bias against him because he is a New York-bred. But, after all, the New York-bred Funny Cide won this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Sir Oscar, won his first four starts, all at Calder, including the first two legs of the Florida Stallion Stakes Series. Calder may not be fashionable source of Breeders' Cup horses, but 2-year-olds from there are nothing if not tough.

As for Value Plus, he has the most name recognition of the featured four because of an impressive first out victory at Saratoga. He lost a little luster finishing a distant second to Cuvee in the Futurity, but he had a terrible trip in that race.

In regard to acceptable odds, Read the Footnotes and Sir Oscar should both be over 30-1. I made Eurosilver 20-1 on the morning line, but I'm hoping for more than that. And, if Value Plus drifts to 15-1 or 20-1, then he will certainly be living up to his name.

Juvenile Fillies

I would love to say the Juvenile Fillies is just as good a betting race from a futures perspective as the Juvenile, but I can't. In my opinion, the undefeated Halfbridled is a truly special filly, as exciting a young prospect that has come along in a while, and is the most likely winner in all of the Breeders' Cup races. Unfortunately, many will agree, driving her price down to unacceptable levels.

Of course, this is still a future wager, and with five weeks between this betting period and Breeders' Cup Day, there is plenty of time for injuries to surface. The problem is, if something should happen to Halfbridled (which, of course, I hope doesn't happen), the alternatives are not especially appealing. Halfbridled is so far ahead of the rest of the California-raced 2-year-old fillies that it is impossible to determine if any of the others there are capable of playing opportunist. The unbeaten Ashado has been the best 2-year-old filly in New York, but her Beyers are uninspiring. The regally bred La Reina is immensely promising, but she has a long way to go from her recent departure from the maiden ranks. Even Class Above, who almost lapped her field in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies, may have been made to look good by weak opposition. And as the likely second choice, Class Above won't offer any value.

I'll admit it: If Halfbridled doesn't win this, I haven't got a clue who will.

Filly and Mare Turf

It's wide open from here on out, and this race borders on the inscrutable. The American contingent is full of quality, but is also loaded with questions. And, as always, the big question with the Europeans is, which ones will show up?

As for the home team, Voodoo Dancer, Tates Creek, Megahertz, Dublino, and Heat Haze are all good enough to win. However, Voodoo Dancer's recent inactivity after achieving peak form is troubling, Tates Creek is a question mark at the 1 1/4-mile distance, Megahertz needs a lot of factors to fall her way, and Dublino's form may be on the downswing. Even if these issues don't bother you, the probable low odds on most of these makes it unappetizing to pay to find out the answers. Heat Haze may be the best of the group, but her odds may fall into single digit territory.

At least with the Europeans, the uncertainty of which will race may be compensated by inflated odds because American bettors are unfamiliar with them. Islington, who may run in the Japan Cup instead of the Breeders' Cup, should have won this race last year, and she has been competitive with some of Europe's best males this season. Anything over 10-1 on her is an overlay.

Whether she competes in this race or the Mile is the big issue with Nebraska Tornado. It has been reported that she may avoid the Mile because the same owner has Oasis Dream for that event, but the same owner also has Heat Haze and Tates Creek for this race. In any event, Nebraska Tornado has been favorably compared to Banks Hill, who was sensational winning the 2001 Filly and Mare Turf. With that in mind, she's very playable at 10-1 or more.

Mezzo Soprano and Yesterday are also interesting. They were only a head apart when first and second in a Group 1 in Paris last week. But, since neither is as accomplished as Islington or Nebraska Tornado, their odds would have to be correspondingly higher, say 20-1.

Mile

As usual, the Europeans (whichever ones come) will be strong in this race, but they won't be the slam-dunk that a lot of people every year think they will be. Two Americans - Special Ring and Peace Rules - are very intriguing.

Special Ring is obvious. He established himself as the best miler/middle-distance turf horse in the country with his victory in the Eddie Read, and he's proven over the Santa Anita turf course. I made him the 8-1 morning line favorite, and if Special Ring's odds drift to 12-1 or more, he's worth a play.

Despite being a well-known 3-year-old, Peace Rules is a less obvious contender. Peace Rules is a legitimate Grade 1 dirt horse, and although he is also a stakes winner on turf, he has never competed at this level on turf. With that significant unknown, acceptable odds on Peace Rules have to be 20-1 or more.

As for the Europeans, if Nebraska Tornado's handlers are thinking seriously about getting her out of Oasis Dream's way, then Oasis Dream merits respect. Oasis Dream has yet to run beyond seven furlongs, but that fact may actually help his price, and he can be bet at 15-1 or higher.